Assistant to the director at the National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment Wang Zhutian told Chinese media that international food safety standards were too unrealistic for China’s food producers. He said it would be better for the food industry if the country were to “use its own risk assessment methods to establish its own food safety.”
To Wang’s credit, Western nations can be a little overzealous with food safety (best before dates being an example), however food safety is an issue with little grey area: either the food you eat is safe for consumption, or it is not and it will make you fall ill. Wang insisted that China’s status as a developing country exempts them from any sort of international criteria, suggesting they instead create a set of national food safety guidelines specific to China.
Wang’s argument isn’t all that convincing, but the government actually does intend to improve food safety regulations by “revamping outdated standards, reviewing and abolishing any contradicting or overlapping standards and working out new regulation” with particular attention to improving standards regarding “contaminants, fungal toxins, food additives and food labels”. Also, last years’ attacks by the government on major restaurants such as KFC and McDonalds over food safety were somewhat a step in the right direction. Although the intentions behind the scrutiny of these foreign companies are questionable, the effort to ensure food safety is appreciated.
Whether the slow pace towards an acceptable level of food safety (it’s a five year plan) in China is enough to quell the worries of the people is unclear. The reputation of China’s cuisine for being delicious is quickly becoming overshadowed by its numerous food scandals, which are driving people to buy products from abroad to ensure their food isn’t tainted with poison. Just like the near unbreathable air and undrinkable water, China’s food safety issues will need to be addressed more rapidly.
[Image credit: @Baidu]